Drop in piracy, drop in accessibility

2019-12-27 2 min read

    A few days ago I came across a tweet that was making the rounds:

    I agree with the sentiment and know how much I benefited from having access to software as a kid. It got me both interested in computers and gave me a head start on writing code.

    The one point that’s missed here is how difficult it is to pirate software these days. In the early days of the internet it would take a very, very long time to download applications but nearly all were piratable - even if it did require running some obscure code and editing hex files. These days, nearly all substantial software is subscription based which makes it incredibly difficult, and potentially impossible, to pirate. This doesn’t affect the well-off but it becomes more and more inaccessible for those that just can’t afford it.

    I’m not advocating piracy but the fact that it was an option, albeit with a ton of hoops, benefited tons of people that don’t get the same benefit now. A while back I read something explaining why Microsoft doesn’t penalize pirated copies of Windows. The answer was that even pirated Wndows is better than another OS and it has the side benefit of getting more and more people used to the Microsoft stack that they will hopefully be able to legally acquire later on. Sure Microsoft was in the dominant market position and was able to afford this perspective but there is some truth to it. Always on, subscription software does lead to a decline in piracy but what’s the cost in accessibility? Is it a short term gain for a long term loss?